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3rd Jan, 2017 | 3:34pm

Everton line up £35m-rated defender as Van Dijk alternative - reports

By Dominic Toner

Everton are targeting Middlesborough defender Ben Gibson if they fail to sign Virgil van Dijk, according to a report.

The Mirror claim that Ronald Koeman had hoped to sign Southampton centre-back Van Dijk in January, but the club are reluctant to sell and have slapped a £50million price tag on him to deter interest from Everton and Manchester City.

The report details that the Toffees could turn to Middlesbrough centre-back Gibson, who is enjoying a fine season at the Riverside.

It is understood that Koeman has been forced to consider alternative options to Van Dijk, with Gibson and Burnley’s Michael Keane being shortlisted.

The Mirror reported in December that Middlesbrough had placed a £35million price-tag on Gibson as they tried to scare off potential suitors.

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Gibson has been a crucial player for Aitor Karanka’s side this season and has played every single minute of their Premier League campaign.

The 23-year-old defender has captained the team on numerous occasions and is regarded as one of the club’s most consistent performers.

He has represented England’s Under-21s side in the past and is expected to make the step up to the senior squad in the near future.

Football Insider verdict: 

Everton do need to prioritise a new defender in January as they are yet to settle on a permanent partner for Ashley Williams at centre-back. The Toffees have not looked defensively solid this season, something that manager Koeman usually prides himself on. Williams, 32, is regarded as the best defender at the Merseyside club and could do with a youthful partner alongside him. Gibson has proved himself this season to be very strong in the Premier League and is expected to get better. Everton are yet to fill the void left by John Stones after he left Goodison Park in the summer and Gibson seems like a good replacement. The club’s owners are keen to improve the squad in the summer, but would hope to pay significantly less than the £35million that Middlesbrough demanded in December.

In other Everton transfer news, the club’s talks with a proven Premier League midfielder have broken down.